On the scale of success, it was probably a one-in-a-million evening, and even for those who thought the musical program a much better selection than the dinner menu, it must have rated at least a one-in-60.
The gala benefit evening to celebrate Zubin Mehta's 60th birthday raised $1 million to benefit the Los Angeles Philharmonic and the Israel Philharmonic Orchestra.
The Monday night Mehta-led concert at the Music Center's Dorothy Chandler Pavilion was topped off with a dinner for 700 in the Grand Hall balcony. The birthday boy, many commented, looked as glamorous as when he was the Los Angeles Philharmonic's music director in the '60s and '70s.
That didn't save him from being the butt of jokes from the trio of longtime friends who performed--pianist / conductor Daniel Barenboim, violinist Itzhak Perlman and violist Pinchas Zukerman.
Barenboim laid claim to the longest friendship, noting he and Mehta met 40 years ago in a conductors' class in Sienna, Italy. "I was 13, and he was 20," said Barenboim. "I was never jealous of his musical talent. I rejoiced in that, but he was an excruciatingly handsome 20-year-old and all the girls' eyes went exclusively in his direction and of that I was jealous, so I'm looking forward to when he is 90 and I'm only 83 because maybe then I will have a chance."
Earlier Zukerman had remarked on the guest trio's serious approach to the evening's performance. "This was part of a concert tour. We just came to make music, it was an added joy to be able to celebrate a friend's birthday, but we're not the Three Tenors, we didn't go outdoors or to Dodger Stadium."
However, he jovially took part in a sort of Three Stooges act as he, Perlman and Barenboim accepted the baseball jackets created for them as memorabilia. Mehta was given one of those as well, along with a music stand, a commemorative photo of the Philharmonic and, his wife Nancy revealed, a couple of stars--one in the sky named for him and one laid down in the Hollywood Walk of Fame.
Walter Matthau had set the tone for sophisticated nonsense, apt musical reference and respectful admiration with his onstage introduction of the concert. At the party that humor baton was passed into the able hands of Perlman, who also allowed sentiment to creep in as he recalled his long history of performing together with Mehta, particularly in Israel.
Mehta's extended family, including his parents Mehli and Themi, were present. Also present was a Hollywood contingent larger than usual for the Music Center, causing one devoted music patron to remark, "There are people here I haven't seen for years, now how can we get them to keep coming back?"
The mixed spring flowers that banked the stage were beautiful, as were the simple sprays of white orchids adorning the tables in the Grand Hall, but the menu seemed a puzzle, particularly the ossobucco on a bed of couscous entree.
Among those coping with the late meal, though few lasted through the dessert of triple chocolate tartuffo, were Barbara and Frank Sinatra, Linda and Robert Attiyeh, Ruth and Howard Koch, Ryuko and Shinji Sakai, Sherry Lansing and dinner co-chairs Anne Douglas, Ellen and Max Palevsky, Rhonda and Vidal Sassoon, and Ruth and Charles Gold.
* RELATED STORY: Times Staff Writer Chris Pasles reviews the show. F1